Leading US aircraft manufacturer Boeing on Tuesday made a strong pitch for its F/A-18 Super Hornet tactical aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which has plans to purchase 126 combat aircraft.
However, the company has reservations about an offset-clause of 50 per cent laid down by the government in June while clearing the IAF plans.
India's Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), announced last year, lays down that 30 per cent of all defence deals valued at over Rs 3 billion has to be reinvested in the country. It also contains a transfer of technology (ToT) clause and mandates licensed production in India of military hardware bought from abroad.
"It will be a challenge (for the manufacturers) to put together a comprehensive and acceptable offset plan within the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP)," Lt Gen Jeffrey Kohler, Director of the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency had said on the new policy.
Agreeing with him, Ian QR Thomas, President, Boeing India, felt that the 50 per cent offset should be indirect rather than direct, adding: "it can be used as a powerful tool to harness the best of industry and expertise can be brought from around the world".
He said India's offset policy for defence purchases was coming in the way of America's defence vendors, as they are lobbying hard for getting the IAF order in a deal valued at $10 billion.
The company's Vice President and General Manager, Integrated Defence Systems, Chris Chadwick said: "Indo-US strategic dialogue and the Indo-US civil nuclear deal would open the defence market for our company and it could become India's preferred partner."
The company official in charge of the F/18 Super Hornet programme, Robert E Gower, said it is the first tactical combat aircraft designed from its inception to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
The F/A-18 can deliver conventional air-to-air, air-to-ground decoy expendables, and can carry airborne control pods for various missions.
Gower will be in Bangalore to explore the possibility of collaboration with Indian companies such as Tatas and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
He said the company had made modifications in the F/A-18 Super Hornet bringing down the production cost per aircraft from $82 million to $49.9 million and converting it from analogue to digital.
"We are also continuously improving the aircraft so that it is in operation for the next 20 to 30 years. We have been ahead of our schedule in manufacturing the aircraft having delivered 324 to Australia," Gower said.